At the end of August, Leeds Festival returned to Bramham Park, with a line-up showing off a variety of established and newer artists.
The problem with festivals featuring so many names from similar genres is the clashes, and Friday began with a clash of some of the most promising names. Bright at early at the Festival Republic Stage, Sheffield’s youngsters The Sherlocks’ opening set was greeted with a full tent. Over at The Lock Up Stage, Black Foxxes showed off the next direction for rock music and Leeds band NARCS opened the BBC Introducing Stage after winning their slot as part of the Futuresound competition. Black Honey’s strong female vocals provided some variation from a male-focused day, before performances from Sundara Karma and Gengahr, both showing potential for success this year. Over in The Lock Up, Fort Hope’s set featured primarily pop-punk tracks, with elements of metal and acoustic which acted as a refreshing combination. For their third appearance at the festival, Lonely The Brave played the Main Stage. Their unusual stage set up consisted of their singer hanging back behind the guitarists, who appeared to be the “front men” of the band, but this didn’t detract from the performance.
Later in the afternoon, The Maccabees thrilled crowds with tracks from their new album, giving off the impression these songs were written to be played in the sun on the main stage at major festivals. Over in the Festival Republic Stage was one of this year’s most exciting discoveries in the form of Jack Garratt. Armed with equipment that would be a mystery to most, Jack balances an incredible range with heavy guitar and tech creating every sound imaginable. Crowds then packed into the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage to catch a glimpse of Years & Years, one of this year’s success stories after winning the BBC Sound Of 2015 award. Next, BBC Introducing Stage headliners Childcare took to the stage, with lead singer Ed dressed only in shorts and covered in painted black flowers. Complete with dance moves and several visits to the front of the audience, the performance was not one to be forgotten. The day came to an end with headliners The Libertines. After their 2014 comeback, there was high anticipation to what they’d bring to Leeds a couple of weeks prior to the release of their third album.
Saturday began with the loudest set of the weekend when VANT appeared on the Lock-Up Stage. Ahead of a huge arena tour with Imagine Dragons, Sunset Sons showed the Festival Republic Stage that they’ve got what it takes to entertain fans and new listeners alike with their pop-rock anthems. No strangers to arena shows themselves, American indie-pop band Panic! At The Disco made their second appearance on the Main Stage, where lead singer Brendon’s confidence on stage is commendable after an unfortunate incident with a bottle knocking him out the first year they played. The set featured an impressive full-length cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, which, even when met with a brief shower of rain, had the whole crowd singing along. Don Broco brought their funkier second album to the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage as well as treating fans to rockier classics from their debut. Always one for putting on something unique, the BBC Introducing Stage played host to the soulful Martin Luke Brown who even mixed Britney Spears into one of his own tracks.
The afternoon was all about the return of previously booked bands. University of Leeds alumni Bastille took to the Main Stage for their last gig in a while, met with thousands of fans holding up triangles as if they were at a Jay-Z and Kanye West show. With their debut appearance at the festival just three years before on the Festival Republic stage, this was a visual representation of how much has changed for them. Peace returned to the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage they had played two years before, having played a slot on Main Stage last year and this year their later slot was packed with even more people. Also from Leeds and no stranger to the festival, Alt-J held the audience with a heavily instrumental set and a light show despite a complete lack of movement onstage. The coloured sky added atmosphere to a set which wouldn’t stereotypically interest so many people but had everyone hooked. Django Django also used lighting to their advantage, displaying colourful shapes on a screen behind them. This was followed by New Found Glory in the Lock-Up Stage, with over-enthusiastic pop-punk fans screaming every word back to them from the minute they began to play. Mumford & Sons returned with newer material for their first Reading & Leeds headline set, having already conquered Glastonbury two years earlier.
After a not-so-secret appearance at Reading, rumours of a second set from Foals at Leeds was circulating the campsite on Sunday morning. The day began with Nothing But Thieves – a rock band whose faultless falsetto and catchy riffs set them apart from other up-and-coming acts. It’s not long before those in the know filled the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage to see Foals come onstage to their huge 2013 hit ‘My Number’. This was closely followed by Leeds’ own VITAMIN on the BBC Introducing Stage, ahead of their residency at Brudenell Social Club where they will be continuing the spirit of BBC Introducing by putting on local up-and-coming bands. One of the more surprising rises to fame that 2015 has offered is that of Slaves back in the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage whose set featured the unusual set-up of the lead vocals being performed by the drummer. Loud and feisty – these guys won’t be forgotten, and neither will the appearance of their tour manager crowdsurfing dressed as a mantaray during ‘Feed The Mantaray’ in what is definitely not your stereotypical Leeds Festival performance. Circa Waves were then met with a sea of teenage girls on shoulders, jumping around to their summery tunes that are made for festivals; meanwhile the psychedelic sounds of Blossoms drew passers-by to the Festival Republic Tent. The crowd hung around for Wolf Alice, and lead singer Ellie’s star quality shone through in a fierce performance.
The final evening of the festival summed up what Leeds is about. Royal Blood have gone from strength to strength after being thrust into the spotlight last year and lived up to expectations in their Main Stage set. The bold return of Everything Everything brought yet another new sound this year, showing their versatility and how their music shows no genre restrictions, and this came across in their set in the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage. Rock meets grunge in Darlia’s set – no one stands still when the band churns out hit after hit. Meanwhile, the back of the crowds combine as Catfish & The Bottlemen’s fans spilled out of the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage in one of the most eagerly anticipated performances of the weekend. Over at the Main Stage, Bring Me The Horizon show exactly how they earned such a presitigious slot before the mighty Metallica brought Leeds Festival to a close. Bold, loud and heavy – they did exactly as expected and proved themselves to be one of the greatest bands ever to play live music.
The whole weekend provided an insight into the last year of music, both the best of the up-and-coming and those cementing their position at the top. Whether you’re looking for your next favourite band or want to see performances from future musical legends, Leeds Festival is the place to come.
photo: Marc Sethi